Birthdays are fun. That’s my conclusion after coming back from helping my sister celebrate her big day.
Among other things, we attended a quilt show – a display of stunning heritage quilts, some going back to the 1800s. (Old quilts + old quilty gals = fun, you know!) The show also featured a collection of old hats, which we were welcome to try on for photo ops and selfies.
But birthdays can also be serious times, when we reflect on the past and look forward to the future. About a month ago, author Anne Lamott posted on Facebook about an upcoming birthday. She thought she should write down everything she knows, now that she’s 61. It amounted to 14 things. 14 things after 61 years? That’s not much.
This week, a good friend turned 75. When we shared a celebratory meal, I asked him what he knew now that he didn’t know when he was younger. “Not much,” he said immediately. Not much? That’s about the same as 14, isn’t it?
Of course, there are people like Oprah, who can write a column every month in her magazine called This Much I Know For Sure. She’s been doing that for almost 15 years. You do the math! She knows a lot more for sure than Anne and our friend Al.
But somehow, I identify with Anne and Al more than with Oprah. When I was young, I thought I knew it all, but now, unfortunately, I know very little for sure any more. I’m a little leery of “for sure” these days. I’ve lived long enough to have experienced many “for sures” that were proven to be not so for sure. Cigarettes were harmless; coconut oil, eggs, coffee and dozens of other foods were bad for you, then good for you, then ... well, who knows?; humans will never step foot on the moon; Bill Clinton never...well, never mind. For sure isn’t always so for sure.
Sometimes I think it would be so nice to know things for sure. If you know things for sure, you can feel a little more in control. But then I remember that the desire to know for sure is where Adam and Eve ran into trouble. “It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so,” said Mark Twain.
I learned a new word when I was in Ontario that has something to do with this topic. The word is “aparigraha”, a Sanskrit word. It was written on the side of a Lululemon gift bag. “Graha” means grabbing or taking; “pari” means from all sides; and when you put an “a” in front of all that, it means, NO! Aparigraha can be translated as ‘not grasping”. Often it’s applied to letting go of greed and material possessions (which I find a little ironic, considering that millions of folk will pay big $$$ for Lululemon duds because it’s THE thing to wear in the gym. But I digress...)
What if we opened our mind to the possibility that our “for sure” opinions might not be so “for sure” after all? What if we stopped holding those opinions in tightly closed fists? Aparigraha: be free to learn and think and grow.
What if we relinquished our grasp on our cynicism, our grudges, our emotional wounds? Aparigraha: freedom to heal, to reach out, to change our perspective on the world and the people we love.
Number two on Anne’s List of things she knew was this: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
I like that.
Unplugging is a form of aparigraha, letting go for a while. Who knows what may happen? something good ... for sure?